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Bashir Lazhar

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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This is a powerful play that raises some difficult questions, and – gratifyingly – refuses to come up with any easy answers. The eponymous character is drafted in as a supply teacher to a Canadian school where a shocking tragedy has recently taken place. A refugee himself, he weighs up his own troubled background against what he discovers. In the end, is it better to resist life’s difficulties, even if it might seem heartless, or to give into their effects? Is there a scale of suffering, or is there an equivalence of pain?

Michael Peng gives a superb, nuanced central performance in this bold production, combining a muscular physicality – movement sections are well choreographed and striking – with tenderness and fragility. The memorable design, by Cory Sincennes and Jennifer Goodman, presents the stage as a huge blackboard, on which Peng scrawls notes throughout the play, charting the development of the work’s themes.

Piet Defraeye’s direction is solid and secure: he allows Evelyne de la Cheneliere’s text to speak for itself, but enhances it with striking visuals, elegant performances and a sure sense of the piece’s overall structure. This is an accomplished, urgent piece of work that reminds us about some difficult truths.

- David Kettle


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